Canoe furniture

Along with its wide selection of hand-crafted wooden canoes, American Traders of Brattleboro, Vt., also offers canoe-themed furniture, as in canoe bookcases, canoe coffee tables and more. The canoe business started out in 1980, while the furniture part was launched around 1990. The latter now accounts for about 40 percent of the company's sales.

Owner Tim Cuthbertson says the furniture line developed as a result of customer feedback on how the canoes were so beautiful that they belonged inside homes. The first item was the popular canoe bookcase, being a half-canoe with shelves in it. In the early '90s these attracted a broad client base, including interior decorators working rustic lodge themes.

"Once the bookcase was established, clients wanted various sizes of bookcases — seven feet, eight feet, wider, narrower , Then people wanted coffee tables to go with their bookcases," says Cuthbertson.

Generally, items are offered from a standard stock list. Custom requests can be catered to as well, such as one from a clothing retailer that wanted decorative canoe furniture for several showrooms. But in general, Cuthbertson says custom is not a viable option for most customers because it's too costly.

"The canoes are built on specially constructed forms that are not easily changed," he says. "You can stretch something an inch or two, but if somebody wants something that's drastically different, there's a large investment in time and money building the forms."

"We're not a bespoke rustic canoe furniture manufacturer that would build a piece for $15,000 to $20,000. We're more of a cottage industry, small manufacturing production line doing repetitive work."

Decorative, functional and humorous accessories are also available, such as a paddle coat rack.

"From a volume standpoint, the most popular item American Traders builds today is a classic canoe coffee table," Cuthbertson says. "The table is usually for a room that has a rustic theme to it, or a cabin or a lodge. The canoe bookcases are used as display cases for any number of things , someone's collection of something. Decoys, china or glassware, a wine rack , it's a really striking piece for display purposes."

The canoe furniture ranges anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per item, and products are shipped anywhere in the world. A small repair shop is located at the Vermont headquarters, but the main workshop is located in Quebec, Canada. There, 10 craftsmen with backgrounds in boatbuilding and/or cabinetmaking are responsible for milling, assembling and finishing the pieces.